News & Analysis

Jeff Ratcliffe's fantasy football focus: Facts, predictions, and tips for Week 5

Sep 29, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Fantasy Focus is a weekly column that breaks down everything you need to know to set your fantasy football lineups. Make your start and sit decisions with fantasy facts, injury information, matchups stats, predictions for the week and more.

Fantasy football is a series of intense sprints crammed into a marathon. We fly through each week at breakneck speed, and it’s easy to lose sight of the finish line. Of course, we all know the end goal: to win. But getting to that goal isn’t easy, and many times we make that task even more difficult along the way.

It’s often hard to see for the forest for the trees in fantasy football. We get these one-week chunks of information, and recency bias takes over. Just last week, I heard from a number of folks that they dropped Jameis Winston after Week 2. He posted back-to-back disappointing performances, and, of course, frustration levels were high. But dropping Winston didn’t work out very well because he’s gone off in each of the last two weeks.

You may have heard people in fantasy say “process over results.” The above example is a great case for trusting your process. If you drafted a player like Winston, trust in why you drafted them. Sure, there are going to be down weeks along the way, but overreacting to bad games isn’t the path to fantasy success.

Arizona @ Cincinnati

Greenline: CIN -3.8, O/U 46.5

Fantasy facts: Kyler Murray was among the league leaders with nine end-zone throws through the first two weeks. Since then, he’s only thrown to the end zone one time. That’s an ugly number that puts a big-time cap on Murray’s fantasy upside. Of course, the Bengals could have the cure to that this weekend.

Matchup upgrade: It hasn’t quite been the rebound season many had expected for David Johnson in 2019, but the Cardinals back is one of the top plays on the board in Week 5. Johnson gets a cupcake of a matchup against the putrid Bengals run defense. Through the first four weeks of the season, no team has allowed more fantasy points to running backs. The Bengals have already surrendered a combined eight touchdowns to running backs this season. Johnson is poised to go off this week.

It isn’t just Johnson who draws a fantastic matchup this week. We also have to upgrade Tyler Eifert. The Bengals tight end isn’t a starter option most weeks, but he’s in play as a streamer against the Cardinals defense that has been extremely friendly to opposing tight ends. The Cardinals have surrendered a whopping six receiving scores to tight ends this season. Those in deeper leagues may want to toss a desperation dart at C.J. Uzomah.

Matchup downgrade: For as bad as Arizona has been against the pass, they’ve been reasonable good at holding opposing running backs in check and currently rank as the No. 21 matchup for the position. Joe Mixon has sputtered out of the gate and currently ranks a lowly 33rd among running backs in PPR scoring. Don’t expect a breakout from Mixon this week.

Key injuries: The Cardinals are banged up at wide receiver and will be without Christian Kirk and Damiere Byrd. Expect a heavy dose of Larry Fitzgerald this week. We’ll also get our first look at Andy Isabella, but he isn’t a fantasy-worthy option. … Injuries have also shaken up the Bengals’ wide receiver corps. John Ross landed on injured reserve this week, and A.J. Green still isn’t back on the field. Tyler Boyd remains the No. 1 option with Auden Tate sliding into No. 2 duties. Tate is worth adding, but he isn’t startable in regular-sized leagues right now.

Buffalo @ Tennessee

Greenline: TEN -4.8, O/U 39.4

Fantasy facts: There are a lot of Derrick Henry haters out there on the interwebs, but the Titans running back has seen a healthy workload over his last eight regular season games. Tennessee has fed Henry 19.5 touches per game over that span. Henry managed just 3.7 yards per carry last week, but remained a solid fantasy option thanks to 27 carries for 100 yards. Henry’s efficiency numbers aren’t likely to be the best in the league since he’s facing based defense on 62% of his carries. But it’s the volume that’s going to keep him in the front-end RB2 conversation.

Matchup upgrade: Rookie tight end Dawson Knox posted another solid fantasy line in Week 4. Over the last two weeks, Knox ranks ninth at the position in fantasy scoring. Knox is a good bet to continue to produce this week against a Titans defense that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Only the Cardinals have allowed more touchdowns to the position.

Matchup downgrade: Marcus Mariota got off the schneid last week and notched three touchdowns through the air. While that production is encouraging, we can’t use Mariota with any confidence this week. The Bills have been an absolutely brutal matchup for quarterbacks this season. Signal-callers are averaging a league-low 5.1 yards per attempt against Buffalo.

Key injuries: A concussion force Josh Allen from last week’s contest, and the Bills signal-caller has yet to get out of the league protocol. If he’s unable to suit up, the Bills will turn to journeyman Matt Barkley. … Devin Singletary continues to get limited work in at Bills practice. The rookie back has missed the last two weeks with a hamstring injury. It’s tough to trust Singletary as a starting option if he manages to suit up this week, but he should be stashed on benches.

Chicago vs. Oakland (London)

Greenline: CHI -4.7, O/U 41.5

Fantasy facts: Only Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara have more forced missed tackles as a runner than Josh Jacobs so far this season. Jacobs has been excellent at forcing defenders to miss with 18 through his first four games. Of course, Jacobs hasn’t quite been a home run for fantasy as he ranks just 21st in PPR scoring. But fear not, Jacobs owners. He’s had a tough schedule out of the gate, but his elusive numbers suggest his fantasy numbers will improve going forward.

Matchup upgrade: With 34 targets through the first four weeks of the season, Allen Robinson has been one of the more heavily used wideouts in the league. Look for that volume to continue this week, as Robinson draws plus WR/CB matchups on the perimeter against Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley. The latter player has been especially vulnerable, allowing 11 of the 17 targets thrown into his coverage to be caught.

Matchup downgrade: Keep the above stat on Jacobs in mind because there’s a good chance he struggles this week. The Bears are one of the better run defenses in the league, and currently allow the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. So far this season, running backs average just 3.1 yards per carry against Chicago. Only the Bucs are holding opposing backs to a lower rate.

Key injuries: With the Bears bye week looming on the horizon, Mitchell Trubisky will sit this week out with the shoulder injury that he suffered last week. Chase Daniel will get the nod and is worth a look in deeper 2QB and superflex leagues. … Taylor Gabriel sat out last week with a concussion and has yet to get back on the field. He’s looking very iffy for Week 5. … Keep an eye on Tyrell Williams’ status today. The Raiders wideout has yet to practice this week with a foot injury. Another miss practice could put his status in jeopardy.

Tampa Bay @ New Orleans

Greenline: NO -3.1, O/U 46.5

Fantasy facts: Jameis Winston is coming off back-to-back big fantasy performances. While his many fantasy haters will try to tell you that Winston is inconsistent as a fantasy option, he’s actually been the exact opposite when it comes to the key fantasy stat of end-zone throws. Winston enters the week just one off the league lead with 14 end-zone throws on the season, with four converted for scores. Expect the fantasy product to continue for Winston if he continues to take a lot of shots to the end zone.

Matchup upgrade: If you’re new to the PFF Fantasy WR/CB Chart, there’s a simple trick you can use to find a good matchup each week. Simply scroll down the list and look for who P.J. Williams is covering. This week, that distinction goes to Chris Godwin, who is one of the hottest receivers on the planet this season. Godwin enters the week third in the league among wideouts in fantasy scoring, with a hyper-efficient 26 catches on 33 targets. He’ll see plenty of Williams with Mike Evans likely to draw a shadow from Marshon Lattimore.

Matchup downgrade: This isn’t a good week for the running backs in this contest, as both sides are among the worst matchups for the position. Alvin Kamara owners can’t be excited to see that the Bucs allow the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backs, but Kamara has a way of getting his regardless of the matchup. Where we should really be concern is with the Tampa backfield. A lot of fantasy players ran out and picked up Ronald Jones this week. While there’s plenty of upside in Jones, this isn’t the week to start him. New Orleans is allowing a stingy 19.0 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields, which ranks them as the sixth-worst matchup for the position.

Key injuries: Chris Godwin battle through a hip injury and put up a massive stat line last week. While he’s still on the injury report, Godwin is a good bet to suit up again this week.

Minnesota @ NY Giants

Greenline: MIN -5, O/U 43.4

Fantasy facts: Frustrations abound for fantasy players with any piece of the Minnesota passing game. The run-heavy approach the Vikings have taken out of the gate is the obvious problem here, but there’s still more to the story. So far this season, Kirk Cousins has only attempted 10 passes of more than 20 yards in the air. The league leader is Matthew Stafford with 31. Cousins’ aDOT of just 7.3 yards ranks 30th in the league. For fantasy value to start coming from this passing game, Cousins doesn’t just need to throw more often — he also needs to throw downfield more often.

Matchup upgrade: There is good news this week for anyone who drafted Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The Vikings duo were widely regarded as top-15 fantasy wide receivers heading into the season, but Thielen currently ranks 37th and Diggs is a lowly 50th among wideouts in fantasy scoring. But that all could change this week with favorable WR/CB matchups against the shaky Giants secondary. The trio of Janoris Jenkins, Grant Haley, and DeAndre Baker have allowed a combined 45 catches at a clip of 17.2 yards per reception with five going for touchdowns. If it doesn’t happen this week for the Vikings pass catchers, it isn’t going to happen.

Matchup downgrade: We saw Daniel Jones come back to earth last week after his enormous debut performance. Jones could have tough sledding yet again this week against a good Vikings defense. Minnesota has been stingy against the pass with opposing signal-callers averaging just 6.5 passing yards per attempt. Jones isn’t anything more than a mid-range QB2 this week.

Key injuries: There was some buzz Saquon Barkley could get back on the field this week, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The stud running back is listed as doubtful, so it’ll be another healthy dose of Wayne Gallman for the G-Men again this week.

NY Jets @ Philadelphia

Greenline: PHI -13.6, O/U 44.3

Fantasy facts: We have a full-blown committee in the Eagles backfield, which certainly can make things complicated for fantasy purposes. So far this season, Philadelphia has fed Miles Sanders 52 carries with Jordan Howard seeing 47. That being said, Howard does seem to be the preferred back inside the 20, as he’s leading Sanders in red-zone carries 11-8 and goal-line carries 5-2. Sanders still has the higher long-term ceiling, but for now it’s tough to trust either as anything more than a flex option.

Matchup upgrade: Alshon Jeffery got back onto the field last week and proceeded to find the end zone. Jeffery is in play as a solid WR2 option this week with a plus WR/CB matchup on tap against Darryl Roberts. So far this season, Roberts has been targeted a massive 28 times with 18 catches and two touchdowns in his coverage.

Matchup downgrade: Nelson Agholor was a fantasy fill-in last month, but he shouldn’t be anywhere near starting lineups in Week 5. Agholor gets a brutal draw out of the slot against Brian Poole. The Jets corner has been excellent out of the gate, grading out second overall at the position through the first month of the season. Poole is holding opposing wideouts to a 50% catch rate with an average of just 4.5 yards per catch in his coverage.

We’re also downgrading Le’Veon Bell this week. The veteran back and jet ski aficionado is averaging a massive 25 touches per game this season, so expect the volume to be there. Unfortunately, he may not be able to do anything with it just like we saw back in Week 3. Philly’s stout run defense has held opposing backs to just 2.9 yards per carry this season.

Key injuries: Sam Darnold was trying to get back on the field, but concerns about an enlarged spleen due to mono will keep him sidelined for at least one more week. Luke Falk will get the start yet again, so fire up the Eagles defense this week. … An abdominal injury has kept DeSean Jackson off the field for the last two games, and Jackson will miss at least one more. The veteran still offers upside when he returns, so keep him stashed on benches.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

Greenline: BLT -3.4, O/U 44

Fantasy facts: Astute observes will notice that Mark Ingram comes in a lot lower in PFF’s fantasy football projections than he does in our fantasy football rankings this week. Why the disparity between the two? It’s a great question that highlights the key difference between these two pieces of fantasy information. Projections are essentially averages of a wide range of outcomes. So far this season, Ingram is sixth among running backs in fantasy points but ranks just 18th in carries. In other words, he’s been extremely efficient. Projections assume the midrange of efficiency, so Ingram comes in much lower because he isn’t seeing heavy volume. That said, we’re able to better account for ceiling and floor in rankings, thus Ingram is a top-10 play this week.

Matchup upgrade: Speaking of running backs, we could have a bit of a quandary in the Steelers backfield, as James Conner missed practice on and Thursday with an ankle injury. If Conner can’t go, look for Jaylen Samuels to get the bulk of the work for the Steelers. Baltimore enters the week as the No. 5 matchup for running backs with the Ravens allowing a league-high six touchdowns to the position with running backs averaging a massive 5.3 yards per carry.

Matchup downgrade: There really aren’t any major downgrades in this contest, though Mason Rudolph isn’t likely to match his Week 4 output. The Ravens are currently the No. 21 matchup for quarterbacks.

Key injuries: In addition to Conner’s injury, we’re also keeping an eye on JuJu Smith-Schuster. The standout wide receiver missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a toe injury.

New England @ Washington

Greenline: NE -13.9, O.U 42.1

Fantasy facts: Sony Michel has forced three missed tackles on 62 attempts this season. Rex Burkhead has forced four missed tackles in 24 attempts. It’s been fairly clear who the more effective back has been this season, but the Patriots have remained steadfast in the commitment to Michel. That being said, Burkhead owners should keep him stashed in cash a changing of the guard occurs.

Matchup upgrade: Tom Brady is coming off a down week in a tough matchup on the road against the Bills, but he’s poised to rebound in a big way. Washington has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks so far this season. The Redskins are one of just three defenses to allow double-digit passing scores in the month of September.

Matchup downgrade: It’s tough to like anything on the offensive side of the ball for the Redskins this week. Through the first month of the season, the Patriots defense has been extremely good. The Pats current rank as the No. 32 matchup for quarterbacks, No. 31 for running backs, No. 31 for wide receivers, and No. 29 for tight ends.

Key injuries: Terry McLaurin is trending toward getting back on the field after missing last week with a hamstring injury. However, the matchup is so bad that you’re going to want to fade McLaurin. Better days will be ahead, though.

Jacksonville @ Carolina

Greenline: CAR -3.5, O/U 41.6

Fantasy facts: The Panthers are feeding Christian McCaffrey. Last week, he saw a massive 37 touches and is now on pace on pace for 444 touches. While that may sound fantastic, we were down this road with another standout running back last year: Todd Gurley. After eight games, Gurley racked up an average of 25 touches per game. That sort of volume will wear on even the best backs, and we saw him flame out at the end of the season. McCaffrey is now ahead of Gurley’s pace by a healthy margin. While it may sound counterintuitive, McCaffrey’s fantasy owners should be hoping for the Panthers ease off of his usage going forward.

Matchup upgrade: With Jalen Ramsey dealing with a back injury, the Jags will likely turn to Tre Herndon again this week. That means good things for D.J. Moore, who has struggled to put up fantasy points over the last two weeks. Herndon got absolutely torched last week, allowing six catches on nine targets for 119 yards and two scores.

Matchup downgrade: The Gardner Minshew era has been fun to watch, but there’s no way you can have him anywhere near starting lineups this week. Carolina’s defense has flown under the radar, but the Panthers are one of the better units in the league. Carolina enters the week as the eighth-worst matchup for quarterbacks with opposing signal-callers averaging just 5.2 yards per attempt against the Panthers.

Key injuries: Cam Newton will miss at least one more game due to his nagging foot injury. Kyle Allen will get the nod again this week.

Atlanta @ Houston

Greenline: HST -4.4, O/U 49.2

Fantasy facts: Last week wasn’t the best for Matt Ryan owners. Sure, the Falcons signal-caller did throw for 397 yards, but he managed no touchdowns on the day. However, it isn’t time to panic. Ryan threw just one ball to the end zone after having 12 over the first three games. Look for him to rebound in what could be one of the higher scoring games of the week.

Matchup upgrade: After a hot start to the season, Julio Jones came back to earth last week. Don’t expect that downward trend to continue this week, as Jones draws an extremely favorable WR/CB matchup against the Texans secondary. Veteran Johnathan Joseph is tied for the league lead in catches allowed with a massive 24 through the first four games, and rookie Lonnie Johnson Jr. currently grades out as the 105th cornerback out of 106 qualifiers.

Matchup downgrade: There are plus matchups nearly across the board in this contest, but the one exception may be for Carlos Hyde. The Falcons defense isn’t complete shut-down against the run, but they do rank as the No. 20 matchup for running backs. Opposing backfields average just 3.97 yards per carry against Atlanta, which is the ninth-fewest entering Week 5.

Key injuries: Kenny Stills injured his hamstring last week any only managed to get limited practice sessions in so far this week. If Stills isn’t able to suit up, look for an uptick in Keke Coutee’s usage.

Denver @ LA Chargers

Greenline: LAC -5.4, O/U 44.9

Fantasy facts: The are six receivers who have seen double-digit red-zone targets this season. Two of them are in this game: Keenan Allen (13) and Courtland Sutton (11). Allen posted a bit of a fantasy dud last week, but he’s poised to bounce back. We did see the Broncos shadow Allen with Chris Harris in Week 11 last season, but Allen had no problem in that matchup, posting six catches for 69 yards and a score against him. As for Sutton’s outlook, take a peek below in the downgrade section.

Matchup upgrade: Good news for Melvin Gordon owners, as the Chargers back will be on the field this week and gets a favorable matchup against a Broncos team that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to running backs in 2019. However, the bad news for Gordon owners is that we still expect a split in the backfield with Austin Ekeler. Charger coach Anthony Lynn told the media to not expect a full complement of snaps for Gordon this week, but that the team did have a package for him. Given this information, Ekeler is the preferred starter of the two. That said, it’s fair to consider both as RB2 options this week.

Matchup downgrade: While the Broncos are struggling as a team, Courtland Sutton’s fantasy arrow is pointing up after finding the end zone twice last week. While it’s tempting to use him this week, Sutton’s fantasy owners may want to think otherwise. The Chargers used standout Casey Hayward to shadow Sutton in both meetings between the Chargers and Broncos last season. Sutton managed just three combined catches in those contests and was completely shut down in Week 17.

Key injuries: Hunter Henry won’t be back on the field this week, but the young tight end does appear to be nearing a return. If he was dropped in your season-long leagues, it’s a good idea to scoop and stash him.

Green Bay @ Dallas

Greenline: DAL -3.6, O/U 47.8

Fantasy facts: We’re well over a week removed from Aaron Rodgers’ big Thursday night performance in Week 4, but it’s still worth putting one key stat into context. While he only had one passing score, Rodgers threw a massive nine balls to the end zone. Sure, that conversion rate is low, but it’s an encouraging stat for Rodgers owners. This is an area where Rodgers has historically padded his fantasy numbers.

Matchup upgrade: Ezekiel Elliott enters the week tied for the league lead in red-zone carries with 16. He also gets to face a Packers defense that just got absolutely shredded by the Eagles run game. On the season, only the Bengals and Dolphins have allowed more fantasy points per game to running backs. Elliott is poised to go off, which makes him an uber-chalky DFS play.

Matchup downgrade: Outside of injury or suspension, there’s no reason to ever sit Amari Cooper in season-long leagues. However, those playing in DFS contests this week may want to fade him. Cooper draws a tough WR/CB matchup against Jaire Alexander. We expect the Packers to use Alexander as a shadow on Cooper, which put a damper on his overall upside.

Key injuries: The Packers look like they’ll be without Jamaal Williams this week. Aaron Jones racked up 19 touches in Week 4 with Williams knocked out of that contest early on. Expect to see some Dexter Williams, but the Packers will likely lean on Jones. … Davante Adams is also trending toward not playing this week. Adams put up a massive stat line in Week 4, but also injured his toe. He missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. … Michael Gallup is close to returning, but fantasy owners shouldn’t expect that to happen until next week.

Indianapolis @ Kansas City

Greenline: KC -10.8, O/U 56

Fantasy facts: LeSean McCoy had a league-high 3 goal-line carries last week, scoring on one of them. The veteran back has revived his fantasy stock with the Chiefs this season, but his arrow is pointing down with Damien Williams slated to return this week. To be clear, we don’t expect Williams to get the lion’s share of the work. However, the full-blown committee in the Kansas City backfield caps McCoy’s value in the RB2 range. Williams is more of a flex play in his return game.

Matchup upgrade: Jacoby Brissett has been a fantasy surprise through the first month of the season. The Colts signal caller is one of just three quarterbacks with double-digit passing score. Better yet, Brissett posted four end-zone throws last week. He’s in play as a fringe-QB1 in this contest, with the Chiefs entering the week as the No. 9 fantasy matchup for quarterbacks.

Matchup downgrade: Favorable matchups abound in this one, so we aren’t downgrading anyone.

Key injuries: Marlon Mack hurt his ankle last week and missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. If he’s unable to suit up, the Colts will turn to Jordan Wilkins. … Indy could also be without T.Y. Hilton, who continues to deal with a quad injury. Hilton did get limited work in on Thursday and has a shot to play.

Cleveland @ San Francisco

Greenline: SF -3.8, O/U 47.3

Fantasy facts: It took four weeks, but we finally got the breakout game from Nick Chubb. Chubb owners will be happy to know that this isn’t likely to be his only massive performance of the season. So far this year, 82% of Chubb’s carries have come against subpackage defenses. That means he’s running with an advantage on over eight out of every 10 carries. The Browns offense is putting Chubb in a position to succeed. That said, he does face a 49ers defense that has done well against the run this season.

Matchup upgrade: It’s tough to find a matchup to love in this game. Maybe the “best” matchup of the week goes to Jimmy Garoppolo, but that’s a stretch. The Browns are the No. 15 matchup for quarterbacks so far this season.

Matchup downgrade: It hasn’t been the best start to the season for Baker Mayfield, but the Browns signal-caller did show signs of life last week. While that’s certainly encouraging, he gets a downgrade this week with a rough matchup on tap against the 49ers. San Francisco has surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks with opposing signal-callers averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt against the 49ers.

Key injuries: There’s a chance Tevin Coleman gets back on the field this week. The running back has been sidelined since Week 1 with a high ankle sprain. If he’s able to suit up, look for Coleman to re-assume lead duties in the 49ers backfield. He’d slot in as a flex option. … Jarvis Landry is in the league concussion protocol. Keep an eye on his status heading into the week. Landry owners won’t want to risk it if he’s unable to get to at least limited practice status by Saturday.

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